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9 Brilliant Uses for Your Spare Pennies

Pennies cost more to produce than they're actually worth as currency—unless, of course, you use them for one of these genius life hacks.

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Ali Blumenthal for Reader's Digest

Save a glass of stale wine

Tragic scenario: You’re ready to relax with a stiff glass of wine, but your pinot noir is a day past prime and smells like rotten eggs. Don’t fret. According to the American Chemistry Society, saving a bottle of wine only costs a penny (and an open mind!). Stale wine stinks because of sulfur compounds called thiols that form while uncorked wine reacts with oxygen. Remove that stink by dropping a clean copper penny right into your glass—you should use a penny dated 1909-1982 since it will be 95 percent copper. After 1982, pennies have since switched to 97.5 percent zinc. Stir it briefly with a spoon, then remove it. Because copper reacts with thiols to produce odorless copper sulfide, you will smell (and taste) the difference right away. Three cheers for science!

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Ali Blumenthal for Reader's Digest

Repel garden slugs

Your wine safe in hand, take that penny that just improved your day and use it to ruin a slug’s. While there is no definitive science on this soil hack, many a gardener swears that a ring of copper pennies buried around your prized plants will keep slugs at bay. Biomedical scientist Chris Bland explains on Huffington Post: “Copper metal reacts with the slime that covers snails and slugs, resulting in an unpleasant electro-neural signal (similar to an electrical shock) that repels them.” Even if the pennies don’t keep snails and slugs away, copper is known to prevent plant diseases and has been used in fungicide formulas for centuries. Not all garden pests are harmful⁠, so be wary of the 7 bugs you should never kill in your garden.

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Ali Blumenthal for Reader's Digest

Build a ruler

Need a ruler in a pinch? Pennies are uniformly minted with a 0.75-inch diameter. Line up 16 cents end to end on a flat surface, and you have exactly one foot. Stack those 16 cents into a neat pile, and you have close to an even inch (0.96 inches, to be exact.)

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Ali Blumenthal for Reader's Digest

Drive some screws

If you’re in your car, at work, or otherwise removed from the comfort of your tool kit, the penny makes a functional screwdriver when properly angled, at a slim 1.52 millimeters thick. Depending on the screw, you might not be able to fit your cent perfectly into the grooves but press the penny’s edge into the grooves at a 15-20 degree angle and you will be able to get enough torque to tighten or loosen it. If you seek a different kind of fastener, try these incredible uses for superglue that you’ve never known about.

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Ali Blumenthal for Reader's Digest

Diagnose your tires

Worn out tire treads are a driving liability, especially if you’re on a long road trip with no good place to stop and check them. Luckily, there are many car problems that you can fix yourself. Slot a penny between the ribs of your car tire with Lincoln’s head upside-down. According to Goodyear Tire, if you can see all of Lincoln’s head above the tread, your tire is worn down and should be replaced; if most of his forehead disappears, your tire is still good. Visit the folks at for a more detailed diagram of the test.

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Ali Blumenthal for Reader's Digest

Stabilize a wobbly table

The bane of every restaurant guest: a higgledy-piggledy table that clatters about every time someone adds or subtracts their arms from it. Wobble no more, with a stack of sturdy Lincolns slipped under the problematic table or chair leg. If the wobbly furniture is your own, feel free to superglue the pennies right onto the bottom of the offending appendage. Now be sure to thank Honest Abe every time you sit to eat your daily bread—which, to be honest, all of us should probably just do anyway. On a home-repair roll? Make sure to fix up these household issues that are dangerous to ignore.

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Ali Blumenthal for Reader's Digest

Make a one-cent washer

With a drill or metal hole-puncher, stamp a hole into the center of a cent to turn it into a non-corroding washer. Sound like a lot of effort? A zinc-plated washer costs about 11 cents at your typical hardware store. That’s a whole ten cents you’re throwing away with every penny you don’t repurpose. Think of all the gumballs you’re missing out on! A penny washer is the most similar in diameter to an M10 washer, with a .48mm difference in thickness, and a .95mm discrepancy in diameter. (Our attorney would like us to point out that it is illegal to deface or destroy U.S. currency with the intent to profit from it; thus, we strongly advise you not to sell an augmented penny washer, and please don’t sue us.)

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Ali Blumenthal for Reader's Digest

Collect valuable treasures

From 1909 to 1956, the butt-side of your typical penny did not feature the Lincoln memorial, but two stalks of wheat curled around a bold proclamation of “one cent.” These so-called Wheat Pennies keep coin collectors on their toes for good reason today: every wheat penny is worth more than face value (usually by a couple of cents). However, a single rare penny could be worth hundreds of dollars. No kidding. Find a complete list of wheat penny values at

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Ali Blumenthal for Reader's Digest

Get decorating

Copper accents are in right now, and with a jar full of spare pennies on your side, adding copper to your home decor is cheaper than ever. To personalize your home with pennies, you can use super glue to add a rustic copper border around a mirror or photo frame. Want to jazz up your kitchen? You can combine pennies and resin to create a shiny new coaster. Some penny collectors have even decorated their walls and floors with permanent penny backsplashes; it’s so common that there are templates you can purchase, making it simple and affordable to redecorate your home! Surprised at what you can do with a couple of pennies? Check out more extraordinary uses for objects in your home.

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Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest